Barely a week ago, Janet and Kent Moser piled the last of their belongings into a rented trailer, turned in the keys to their Van Nuys apartment and headed northeast for the high desert to their new home in Palmdale.
Recovering from the trauma of relocation, the Mosers and their four young children are experiencing a new sense of freedom.
For Jonathan, 7, it means playing ball in a large back yard instead of a cramped parking lot. For Kevin, 5, and Brittany, 2 1/2, it means bouncing on the floor without disturbing the neighbors. For Ryan, born last Valentine's Day, one can anticipate the joys of growing up in a neighborhood with lots of children and at least one snowfall each year.
Across the Southland, young couples such as the Mosers have been struggling to attain the American dream of home ownership. Their search for an affordable home has been like reaching for the elusive brass ring, with a price tag that they hope is within their grasp.
Prices Kept Climbing
"We looked around a lot, in San Bernardino, the Chino area, near Oxnard and Thousand Oaks but Palmdale seemed to be a newer development with plenty of potential for growth and property appreciation," said Moser, 30, a corporate financial analyst for the Arden Group who felt he could no longer procrastinate.
"Each time we looked, the price had gone up," he said.
To obtain a price of $141,990 on their four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath house in the upscale west area of Quartz Hill, the Mosers had to purchase it last October, before it was built. The same model is now being sold for $20,000 more.
Moser joins an estimated 38,000 workers who commute an average of 100 miles daily to and from their jobs in the San Fernando Valley. He will exit at Encino; others will travel farther, like Wesley Woodruff, 28, who works for Allied Model Trains in West Los Angeles and wife, Donna, who works for the city of Glendale.
Fastest Growing City
Others, like Liz and Mike Moore, parents of a 2-year-old, have found both affordable housing and jobs locally; Liz as a graphics artist and Mike, a teacher hired out of college by the Antelope Valley Union High School District. Their home cost $100,000.
Palmdale is the fastest growing community among the state's 444 incorporated cities and has held that record for the past two years. Its population, which numbered 23,000 in 1986, is now estimated at 56,000.
But, even given its fast growth, it is not without its traditions, civic organizations and social and church groups, parks and even a tinge of snobbery, said Darlene Phillips, a veteran social scene reporter for the 50-year-old Palmdale-based Antelope Valley News.
"There's so much to do here. Palmdale has its theater group, its opera, its country clubs and golf courses," she said, adding that Palmdale's most prestigious charity function is the Hourglass Presentation Ball.
Air Force Escorts
The 25-year-old formal event is sponsored by the Alpha Charter Guild of the Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center. Each year some 30 local debutantes are escorted to the ball by a contingent of cadets from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
There are many reasons why the community is now labeled Southern California's "hot spot," said Mayor Pete (William J.) Knight, a retired Air Force colonel.
"Affordable housing is a main attraction, of course, and the new freeway has more people willing to accept the commute, which from L.A. is about an hour, give or take," he said.
Residential development is burgeoning, with such major home builders as Kaufman & Broad, Harris, Pardee, Griffin, Rancho Vista, Premier and Ryder offering homes as low as $90,000. Retail development is also on the rise, Knight said, "with plenty of industrial park space, with room for expansion and a school system that's doing a great job keeping up with the growth."
Signs of promising commercial development are everywhere.
A proposed 1.4-million-square-foot regional shopping mall by Forest Cities Development is expected to break ground in April. Also planned is a major auto center and several shopping centers. Already in place are Gateway Center, Plaza del Centro, Palmdale Place and the new Brunswick Vista Lanes family recreation center.
The mayor admits that the water supply for the rapidly growing community is "both a concern and a challenge for the city. But, we're seriously discussing various ways to replenish our underground water supplies."
Looking ahead, Palmdale city planner Clyde Evans, aided by a citizens advisory committee, is involved with finding ways to address the inevitable problems caused by fast growth, and developers have joined with the county to create a community facilities district made possible under the Mello-Roos Act of 1982.
The district, concerned with providing adequate infrastructure systems, is the first of its kind created in Los Angeles County.